Friday, June 22, 2012

Nick Hall

We want to take a moment and honor Nick Hall.  Nick always showed up ready to give his all - not only at work, but at play too.  Nick Hall came to our program as a mid-season emergency hire in 2009 when our climbing ranger program undertook a big transition.  His calm demeanor and dry sense of humor kept even the most serious issues manageable.  Spending time as a Marine Corps Avionics Specialist, Stevens Pass Ski Patroller (SPKA), and hunting in the great Methow Valley, Nick had a rich and varied lifestyle.  Nick's dog Grommet even had a hard time keeping up with all his changes!  One day he'd be in the hot desert climbing and the next he'd be back-country skiing with friends.

Nick served four years as a climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park.  He moved quickly from a capable team member to leading climbing patrols and an entire shift of climbing rangers.  His passion for the outdoors, skiing, and climbing showed while he was at work.  Patrolling with Nick meant good food, mind boggling jokes, and of course rad terrain.

Climbing came naturally to Nick.  He spent as little time as possible in the city (for locals: to get to Issaquah from Longmire - he'd drive through the east-side to get there).  Granite and basalt columns were Nick's playground.  Living out of the back of his truck he avoided suburban areas and flourished at local crags, big-wall hangouts, and took the occasional trip to Yosemite. 

The deliberate lifestyle choices that Nick made inspired his friends and co-workers.  His willingness to step up to challenges, try new systems and techniques first, and state exactly how he felt set the bar high for all of us fellow rangers.  Nick risked his life to help others numerous times as a ranger at Mount Rainier.  Never careless, he purposefully went about his job of alpine guardian with finesse and style.

These are a few links for articles regarding Nick... the Seattle Times Rainier Rescue, Last Rescued Climber Leaves Mount Rainier, and Last of Four Rescued Climbers Leave Mount Rainier.  In the next few days as this tragedy progresses we'll be focused on Nick and his family. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Soon the longest day of the year will be upon us. For climbers this is significant not only because there are a lot of festivals, parties and music happenings throughout the area, but also because this is the time of the year when the long daylight hours allow us to climb headlamp free for many, many hours.

This year the actual Solstice is on June 20 at 23:09, however its effects will be noticed for a much longer period of time and are in fact currently being observed. Since the 20th is a weekday you can actually make it to the Fremont Fair and the associated parties going on this weekend, get down, recover and STILL get out in the wilderness or wherever else you enjoy being for the actual day of Solstice. (Just assuming wilderness is your thing since this is a blog about climbing Mount Rainier.)

The forecast for the upcoming week looks like a mixed bag with some sun and clouds, but no major storm events are on the horizon. Hopefully we are done with those for a while. Climbers have recently been summitting via all the standard routes, so check out the updates for the DC, Emmons, and Liberty Ridge among others. Don't forget your sunblock and stay hydrated out there!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Volcano weather monitoring

The weather on Mount Rainier, together with some overly vigorous maintenance efforts in the past have made keeping the weather station at Camp Muir up and running a challenge. However, the problems seem to have all been identified and hopefully we will have the systems up and running soon. 

The gear in the photo to the left is used by many agencies, such as the NOAA, NWAC, and the NPS for gathering weather information. It is the highest weather telemetry site it the Northwest and takes a beating all year. You can find the raw data from this site and more mountain telemetry stations at the NWAC website.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Clear Above, Films Below

Wednesday Morning on the Ingraham
The past couple of days have been absolutely gorgeous on the upper mountain. The sun has been out, winds have been calm and fresh snow covers almost everything. There have been a few climbers who were undeterred by the mediocre forecasts, and three hardy souls braved postholing and gusty winds above 13,000' to summit via the DC earlier today. Even the climbers who did not make the summit have found some fun making fresh turns on their skis and boards, practicing rescue and ice climbing skills in crevasses, or soaking in the views of volcano tops poking through the clouds.

There is a forecasted low pressure system moving through the Northwest over the next day or two, so some inclement and unpredictable weather is expected on the upper mountain, but this system seems to have enough similarity to the last one where climbers can also reasonably expect periods of nice weather to be found on the upper mountain over the coming days. The only way to know what is happening is to come see for yourself. Check out recent conditions updates for more specific information on climbing routes.

Also in other news check out the Rainier Independent Film Festival going on this weekend at various locations around the base of Mt. Rainier. It looks like they have some great films selected and the venues (which include a Cine-Yurt!) are as varied as the films being screened.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

"Low Pressing" Systems

Late last week and early this week (with some respite on Sunday) low pressure systems are moving through the Northwest.  The mountain typically has some "Jun-uary" weather roll through in the early part of the summer season.  The last low pressure system came through with a high freezing level and lots of moisture.  There was rain up to 11,000 feet.  Whew.  The cloud deck has lowered to around 9000 feet the last couple days restoring the typical upper-mountain snow pack.  Guide companies, independent parties, and climbing rangers have all been out making snow pack assessments.  Be sure to get familiar with the conditions yourself - don't get sucked into the "herd" mentality.

On another note, the solstice is coming up!  There is lots of daylight for climbers to complete their ascents.  Lower freezing levels also make later ascents more practical.  New snow pasted on the mountain has made it quite the spectacular sight.  Don't forget your cameras!  See you up here soon.